China plans to curb capital's water usage

BEIJING - Authorities in Beijing plan to pass a rule this year aimed at curbing water usage by the capital's many golf courses and ski resorts, an official said Monday, as the city battles severe shortages.

The guideline also targets waterhouses - common areas where locals gather to carry out daily washing chores - said an official at the Beijing Water Authority, which oversees water usage in the capital.

"The guideline is still under review, and is expected to come into force this year," Ning Manjiang, who is in charge of the project, told AFP.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the targeted venues will be given water quotas and will have to pay more fees for the precious resource.

Beijing has been plagued by chronic water shortages for years, and authorities have resorted to a wide range of measures - some controversial - to address the issue.

Last year, for instance, authorities in the city suspended the approval of new luxury bathhouses over water conservation concerns, Xinhua said.

The government is also building a huge $60 billion project that aims to divert water along a canal from the south to drought-stricken areas around the capital.

But critics point to the huge number of projects in the capital that waste water. According to state media, for instance, there are at least 75 golf courses in the city, which are a huge drain on the precious resource.

Environmentalists say Beijing pumps up to two-thirds of its water from underground aquifers, with wells in some places up to 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) deep.

The water shortage is not exclusive to Beijing, and has also plagued many parts of arid northern China, which is regularly affected by crippling dry spells while annual flooding wreaks havoc on farm areas in the south.

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